Daily Kickoff

How Canadian Barry Zekelman ended up in a private dining room with POTUS | Pompeo to meet Jewish leaders | Steve Cohen’s $91M rabbit

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MUST READ — The New German Anti-Semitism“For the nation’s estimated 200,000 Jews, new forms of old hatreds are stoking fear,” in the New York Times Magazine.

MEETING OF MACHERS — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet with leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in New York next week. [JewishInsider]

HAPPENING TODAY — Secretary Pompeo will deliver the keynote address at the annual Israel Independence Day celebration hosted by the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

SPOTLIGHT — He’s One of the Biggest Backers of Trump’s Push to Protect American Steel. And He’s Canadian — by Eric Lipton: “Barry Zekelman, a Canadian billionaire whose business is mostly in the United States, is not a guy who likes to lose — or go slow… Zekelman Industries made political donations in the United States — skirting or possibly violating a ban on contributions by foreigners — including $1.75 million last year to a group supporting President Trump.”

“That lobbying effort was how he and his wife found themselves being ushered into a private dining room at the Trump International Hotel in Washington last spring for a small dinner with the president and his son Donald Trump Jr. Mr. Zekelman said they discussed quotas the United States was about to impose on imports of steel from competitors in South Korea.”

“The administration has ruled in favor of Zekelman Industries on a series of claims the company has made against foreign competitors. Sales and profits have surged at the privately held company, which has annual revenues of nearly $3 billion. Employment at the company’s 14 plants in the United States — in Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, Ohio and other states, which operate under names including Wheatland Tube, Sharon Tube and Atlas Tube — has increased by 600, and he hopes to add another 500 jobs this year. ‘In the 33 years I have been in business, I have never been more encouraged,” said Mr. Zekelman, who took over the business at 19, when his father died.” [NYTimes]

Brian Ballard, a Florida lobbyist and a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump’s campaign, 
hosted a fundraiser for Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) on Tuesday. “Two of the Ballard lobbyists listed on the invitation — former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), who represented Deutch’s district while in Congress, and Jamie Rubin, a former State Department official in the Clinton administration — are Democrats. But five others are Republicans.” [Politico]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Ivy Barsky, the chief executive of the National Museum of American Jewish History, has resigned and will leave the institution at the end of June. Barsky was named CEO in 2012, two years after the museum opened a new $150 million building. In a statement on Monday, Barsky said it has been “a great privilege” to head the museum, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

LATEST ON IRAN — The threat posed by Iran has receded in the face of U.S. military deployments, acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan told members of Congress in a series of classified briefings on the Hill on Tuesday, assuring them that a war wasn’t imminent. “Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation. We do not want the situation to escalate. This is about deterrence, not about war,” Shanahan said after the briefings.

Also briefing lawmakers were Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford. The classified sessions led to mixed reaction from both sides of the aisle, with Republicans defending the administration’s moves, while Democrats remained skeptical about whether the Trump administration has a solid strategy for calming the situation and containing Iran.

House Democrats also invited former CIA Director John Brennan and Wendy Sherman, the chief U.S. negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal, to answer their questions on Iran.

The Daily Beast reported that one of the officials who briefed the members said the U.S. government does not have evidence of operational coordination between the Iranian government and al-Qaeda with respect to the current threat stream.

REPORT — Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, according the Daily Beast. The six-hour session, an aide said, touched on his time working in the Trump administration, the frictions he had with Jared Kushner, and efforts to tackle issues like Russian interference in the 2016 election. Tillerson stated, according to the report, that Kushner at times impeded his ability to communicate effectively and introduce to Trump policy proposals developed by State Department experts on major foreign affairs matters.

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Democrats are questioning the motivations of House GOP leadership, which failed to sign a letter urging more protection for Israel’s northern border, citing lack of time. A House Democratic aide told JI that it was being “charitable” to say that House Republican leadership ran out of time to sign the bipartisan letter. “It was circulating for almost two months, how does every other leader in membership remember to sign this and not the top three Republicans?” the aide questioned.

A source familiar with the letter tells JI there was a breakdown in communication in getting the signatures from the GOP leaders. “This is a non-issue. The only reason the signatures from House Republicans aren’t listed is due to a minor communication mishap that affected the ability for the letter to be reviewed before it was sent.”

Kaylin Minton, spokeswoman for the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX), told JI, “All of our Republican leadership has been very clear through their actions, statements, and voting records that they stand with the people of Syria and support the issues outlined in our letter,” she wrote in an email to JI. “Any suggestion otherwise would be a gross manipulation of the facts and purely political.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also failed to sign the letter. A spokeswoman for Speaker Pelosi did not respond to a request for comment. [JewishInsider]

HEARD YESTERDAY – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told an audience of Reform Jews that the fight against antisemitism requires identifying it honestly. “We have to be sure that as we fight it, we don’t label everything as antisemitism, if it is not. But to have strength and focusing on where it actually, actually is,” she said during remarks Tuesday at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) conference in Washington D.C.

The conference, which drew an estimated 1,000 attendees, focused on advocating immigration and criminal justice reform. 

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) drew sustained laughter from the audience recounting about how his Amherst University dorm-mates – RAC members Rabbi Barry Block of the Congregation B’nai Israel and Rabbi Hara Person of the Central Conference of American Rabbis – converted him from a Republican to a Democrat throughout their college years. “I go back to my old freshman dorm and I think, what might have happened, had [Senator] Ted [Cruz] (R-TX) been blessed to have Barry and Hara, on either side of him.”

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced on Wednesday that they will attend the U.S.-led economic workshop in Bahrain next month on the future of the Palestinian economy.

Ashraf Jabari, the only Palestinian businessman to announce his attendance, told the Associated Press: “We can’t keep waiting for a state. We have to think about this area as one entity, not two entities and two realities.”

Abed Alkarim Ashour, a Palestinian businessman from Gaza, shared on Facebook a copy of the invitation sent out by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “The Bahrain conference aims at selling Palestine for a fistful of dollars. You sent the invitation to the wrong person and address,” Ashour wrote.

On Tuesday, Bahrain defended its decision to host the conference. Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, tweeted the position of Bahrain “has been and continues to be championing the brotherly Palestinian people in the restoration of their legitimate rights in their land and an independent state with its capital as East Jerusalem, additionally economically supporting the Palestinian people.”

DRIVING THE CONVO — ZOA’s Mort Klein tells Jewish Insider,“Economics is not the basis of the problem, so economics cannot solve the problem. The Palestinian-Arab, Islamic war against Israel has nothing to do with economics. The issue is Israel’s existence.”

Klein said he sees no benefit from presenting a plan that the Palestinians will reject because it will not ease the pressure on Israel. “The only possible benefit of presenting a plan, as I thought with the Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak’s plans, was that when it’s turned down, the world will become sympathetic to Israel and understand that it’s the Arabs who have no interest in peace. But I was wrong. The world remained extremely hostile to Israel after they saw these extraordinary plans rejected as they were before the plans. The only basis for the Trump administration to try to make a deal is, I believe, they believe since they are so pro-Israel, they will promote a deal that is more in Israel’s favor than any potential future administration. The worst that happens is that the status quo remains.” 

J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement: “Jared Kushner was a real estate developer and Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman were corporate and bankruptcy lawyers before entering government. They should have learned by now that Israeli-Palestinian peace isn’t a real estate transaction in New York or a re-zoning dispute in Queens. You can’t buy your way out of a complex, century-old conflict by throwing money at it. Kushner’s attempt to find an economic solution to this long-running political conflict is destined for failure — a failure which will sap good faith, drain political will and weaken the pro-diplomacy, pro-peace forces on both sides of the conflict.”

Hussein Ibish writes… “Why Trump’s Mideast Peace Envoy Trolls Palestinians: Jason Greenblatt’s Twitter feed is obviously intended to deny Palestinian leaders political wiggle-room. Palestinians shouldn’t oblige him by just saying ‘no’… But Greenblatt is doing an excellent job of making any constructive reply as difficult as possible.” [Bloomberg]

Amb. Dan Kurtzer in response to joint op-ed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador David Friedman defending Trump’s Golan recognition… “Annexing the Golan Is a Leap in Israeli Policy: Israel’s control over the Golan Heights has not been called into question… My conclusion is that this is about domestic politics. Ideological support for Israeli territorial expansion and the courting of American Jewish and Christian Evangelical voters is now driving American foreign policy — bad foreign policy that has created problems, not solved them.” [WSJ]

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at former generals affiliated with Commanders for Israel’s Security over their demand — in a letter sent to the PM — to hold a public referendum before making any moves to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank. “The same ‘experts’ supported the nuclear agreement with Iran and warned: ‘Bibi is making a mistake in navigation and is destroying the alliance with the US,’” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter. “The region in Judea and Samaria is not just a guarantee for Israel’s security, it’s also the inheritance of our ancestors.”

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — MK Miki Zohar (Likud), considered an ally of Prime Minister Netanyahu, formally submitted a bill that would eventually grant Netanyahu immunity from prosecution in three criminal cases against him. A draft of the measure says that members of the Knesset cannot be charged with a criminal offense committed during or before being voted in as a Knesset member unless the body waives their immunity. Netanyahu had denied pushing for such legislation in talks with potential coalition partners. Zohar also insisted that he was acting on his own behalf. The opposition led by Kachol Lavan vowed to fight the effort, while several Likud members criticized the move and expressed hope that it would be stalled.

Avigdor Klagsbald, the attorney representing billionaire Sheldon Adelsonslammed Netanyahu and potential partners for their attempts to curb the powers of Israel’s High Court. “It’s unacceptable to change the entire legal system just because one man has a problem,” Klagsbald said. “It’s unacceptable for the Knesset not to be subject to judicial review. Then they could just legislate that we should all be killed – and we couldn’t start a petition against it.”

David Horovitz writes… “Moshe Kahlon’s chance to save Israeli democracy from Netanyahu: Without Kahlon’s four seats, Netanyahu can at best cobble together a 61-strong coalition… Governing with so narrow a majority, when there is dissent against his immunity moves from within his own party, would be immensely complicated, at best… It falls to Kahlon to look across at what Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi sought to do, and Turkey’s Erdogan has done, to evade prosecution and cement their hold on power by neutralizing the courts, and resolve to prevent anything similar happening here.” [ToI]

Meanwhile, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit 
agreed on Wednesday to postpone Netanyahu’s indictment hearing until October. The hearing will be held on October 2 and 3.

FIRST INTERVIEW — Freed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard said in a rare interview with Israel’s Ch. 12 that the Israeli government could have done more to ease his parole restrictions and to lobby the U.S. to enable him to move to Israel. “To be disappointed you have to expect more,” Pollard said in an impromptu interview while dining in New York. “My expectation level is so low that I am not surprised… There always seems to be something else… To make it a priority would mean the government cared enough to say it’s time for me to come home in a forthright manner and this hasn’t been done.” [Video]

STATE VISIT — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis 
will travel to Israel on Saturday for a 5-day mission that will include high level meetings with Israeli political and business leaders. Overshadowing the trip are DeSantis’s announced plans to hold a cabinet meeting set for May 29 in Jerusalem, which has raised questions whether the state officials will be violating Florida’s open-meeting laws.

SCENE LAST NIGHT — Tina Price, Chair of Hillel International’s Board of Directors, and Larry Moses, the senior philanthropic advisor to the Wexner Family and Foundation, received awards at the Hillel International’s 2019 Spring Celebration at Capitale in New York City. 

2020 ON THE HILL — Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) met with activists of NORPAC who were on an annual mission to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Attendees also met with staff for Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker, (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Michael Bennett (D-CO).

HEARD ON CABLE — Beto O’Rourke during a live CNN town hall Tuesday night: “When a president calls Klansmen and Nazis and white supremacists ‘very fine people,’ when he conflates the words of Representative Ilan Omar, who happens to be a Muslim member of Congress, with the attacks on 9/11, stoking Islamophobia and hatred — and, yes, violence — you begin to be able to explain the rise in hate crimes every single one of the last three years.” 

2020 WATCH — Joe Biden’s huge two-day financial haul highlights the still-ample power of big donors in a Democratic primary field that has put more emphasis on digital dollars… As Biden rakes in big money, will there be a political cost?… Brutal new 2020 numbers for Beto O’Rourke and Bill de Blasio… Elizabeth Warren is betting big on higher-education funding to court the black vote… Kamala Harris faces risks tiptoeing between moderation and revolution… Trump campaign and Senate GOP clash over pollster John McLaughlin… 

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) said in an interview that he considers Biden a friend and mentor, but “it’s time for the generation that fought in Iraq and Afghanistan to take over for the generation that sent us there.”… 

Legal Fees Mount for Republican Party, Trump Campaign  — by Julie Bykowicz: “To help pay legal fees, the White House created a separate political committee called the Patriot Legal Expense Fund in February 2018… Some of the biggest Republican donors have given money to that fund, including Las Vegas gaming executive Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson, who together gave $500,000 last October.” [WSJ]

** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Mark Zuckerberg should hire Microsoft’s Brad Smith as CEO, says former Facebook security chief [CNBC]• George Soros made 8 predictions about politics, financial markets, and Facebook – here’s how they turned out [BusinessInsider] • World’s tallest residential building, developed by Gary Barnett’s Extell, opens listings to public [Forbes] • Real estate industry players kick off ICSC 2019 with gossip, dealmaking at the Wynn pool [RealDeal• Yeshiva University Launches Joint New York Innovation Lab, With Hebrew University as Strategic Partner [Calcalist]

Real estate magnates Rotem Rosen, Zina Sapir to divorce — by E.B. Solomont: “Israeli-born developer Rotem Rosen and Zina Sapir-Rosen, daughter of the late real estate mogul Tamir Sapir, are splitting after 12 years of marriage… Their lavish wedding took place at Mar-a-Lago… (President Trump, a ‘good friend’ of both the bride’s father and Rosen, was in attendance.) According to court records, Sapir-Rosen filed for an uncontested divorce last month — meaning a division of the couple’s real estate and other holdings won’t play out in court.” [RealDeal]

Steve Cohen Outed as Mystery Buyer of $91 Million Koons Bunny — by Katya Kazakina: 
“Steve Cohen was unmasked by Artnet as the mystery buyer of a Jeff Koons rabbit sculpture last week in New York for $91 million, a record for a living artist at auction… The winning bid came from art dealer Bob Mnuchin — the father of U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — who was in the sales room and said he made the purchase on behalf of a client.”[Bloomberg]

How Sackler Became the Most Toxic Name in Philanthropy — by Norman Vanamee: 
“For decades, if you knew the Sackler name, it was probably because you saw it engraved on a towering museum wall or a university building — there is the Sackler Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London, the Louvre’s Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities in Paris, and plenty of others. But now members of the side of the family that owns Purdue Pharma stand accused in numerous lawsuits of helping fuel the opioid crisis by using deceptive marketing to promote the opioid-based drug OxyContin as non-addictive.”[Town&Country]

TRANSITION — A day after leaving office, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined ABC News as a political analyst and The Atlantic as a contributing editor.

PROFILE — How Debra Katz became one of the nation’s top #MeToo lawyers — by Josefin Dolsten: “In the early 1980s… Katz landed a fellowship that allowed her to work on the landmark case Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, in which a bank teller named Mechelle Vinson alleged harassment at work. The case advanced to the U.S. Supreme Court and led to the justices ruling to recognize sexual harassment as a category of workplace discrimination. Since then, Katz has become one of the top lawyers of the #MeToo movement… As Katz gained prominence representing Christine Blasey Ford (against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh), she faced scrutiny from the right, which accused her of being a Democratic operative. And for the first time in her 35 years of being a lawyer, she faced antisemitic death threats. They forced Katz to have security at her home and office. ‘All the threats began with ‘you’re a Jew,’’ she said.” [JTA]

RISING STAR — Tough act to follow: Young maestro leads Israel Philharmonic — by Josef Federman: 
“When Zubin Mehta joined the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969, Lahav Shani wasn’t even born yet. Now, at the age of 30, the Israeli wunderkind is poised to succeed his mentor at the helm of the acclaimed symphony. Stepping into the shoes of a beloved living legend would seem to be no easy task. But Shani is embracing it, calling it an ‘honor’ and promising to put his own distinctive touch and high expectations on an institution that is widely seen as a national treasure… Mehta, 83, is set to step down late this year after leading the orchestra for half a century and holding the title of ‘music director for life’ since 1981.” [AP]

HOLLYWOOD — Netflix Begins Production on Part-Yiddish Series ‘Unorthodox’ — by Robert Mitchell: “Netflix has announced the start of production on its Yiddish- and English-language German series ‘Unorthodox,’ which is shooting in Berlin. The streaming giant is partnering with ‘Deutschland 83’ creator Anna Winger on the original four-part miniseries… Based on a novel by Deborah Feldman, ‘Unorthodox’ tells the story of a young ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman in New York (Shira Haas) who flees her arranged marriage and religious community to start a new life in Berlin.” [Variety]

CAMPUS BEAT — UCLA Guest Lecturer Calls Zionists White Supremacists — by Aaron Bandler: “During a guest lecture to a UCLA anthropology class on May 14, San Francisco State University Arab and Muslim Ethnicities Professor Rabab Abdulhadi called Zionists white supremacists… A Jewish student in the class, Shayna Lavi, told the Journal that Abdulhadi… veered into a ‘rant’ against Israel.” [JewishJournal]

BIRTHDAYS: Director of the Hudson Institute’s Economic Policy Studies Group, also a columnist for The Sunday Times in London, Irwin M. Stelzerturns 87… Award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker since 1989, Connie Bruck turns 73… Cognitive scientist, former CEO of Haskins Laboratories in New Haven and director of the White House neuroscience initiative (2012-2015), Philip E. Rubin turns 70… Director of policy and government affairs at AIPAC since 1995, he was the US representative at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiations in 1990, Ambassador Bradley Gordon turns 70… Former member of Knesset from the Zionist Union party (2015-2019), he was previously a Major General in the IDF, Eyal Ben-Reuven turns 65… Democratic member of the US House of Representatives from Arizona’s 1st district (1993-1995), now a business and transactional attorney in Phoenix, Sam Coppersmith turns 64…

Senior advisor to the Schusterman family, he was President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation (1994-2019), Sanford Ronald (“Sandy”) Cardin turns 62… Former CEO of Agios Pharmaceuticals, he was appointed earlier this year by Google Ventures to co-lead its investments in life sciences, David Schenkein turns 62… Former head coach of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers (2014-2016), winning coach of the EuroLeague Championship in 2014 with Maccabi Tel Aviv, now coaching Olympiakos in the EuroLeague, David Blatt turns 60… British writer, philanthropist and documentary filmmaker, a member of the Rothschild banking family and daughter of Jacob Rothschild, the 4th Baron Rothschild, Hannah Mary Rothschild turns 57… Partner at Sidley & Austin, he clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist (1996-1997), then served as an Assistant US Attorney (1998-2005) and Chicago Inspector General (2005-2009), David H. Hoffman turns 52…

Former Major League Baseball relief pitcher, he played from 1996 to 2005 for the White Sox, Rangers, Angels, Devil Rays, Royals, Tigers and Giants, Alan Brian “Al” Levine turns 51… Harvard Law School professor since 2007, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice David Souter (1998-1999), Noah Feldmanturns 49… Israeli cookbook author, food journalist, culinary editor and TV cookery show host, Shaily Lipa turns 45… Actress, producer, model and singer, Noa Tishby turns 44… Elected to the Knesset in April 2019 as a member of the Blue and White party, he is a military historian and journalist serving as the chairman of the Institute for Zionist Strategies, Yoaz Hendelturns 44… Senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Oren Cass turns 36…

Co-founder of Facebook in 2004 and Asana in 2008, Dustin Aaron Moskovitz turns 35… Charismatic slot receiver and kick returner for the NFL’s New England Patriots since 2009, member of two Super Bowl winning teams, Julian Edelman turns 33… White House correspondent for McClatchy since March 2019, he was previously Washington bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post, Michael Wilner turns 30… Strategy director at Helena in Los Angeles, he was previously a program manager at the Aspen Institute, Peter Walker Kaplan… Emma Kaplan… Gloria Woodlock… Rebecca Weiss… Charles Scott… Benjamin Weiss… Aryeh Jacobson… Former White House Intern and youth advisor to the Mayor of Baltimore, currently on his gap year in Israel, Sir Alex Friedman